Vodacom Super 14

Waratahs wary of Sharks

2009-05-07 12:58
Chris Hickey (Gallo Images)
Waratahs coach Chris Hickey concedes that uncertainty over the make-up of the Sharks side has made it harder to plan for their must-win game on Saturday.

While the Sharks have not announced their line-up, Hickey has not hesitated in naming his starting team.

It includes Rob Horne, who has returned from a hamstring injury, but on the wing and not the centres.

The side also includes the 10-12-13 combination of Daniel Halangahu, Kurtley Beale and Timana Tahu which ran against the Cheetahs, and Luke Burgess has won back the No.9 jersey from Brett Sheehan.

The Sharks, meanwhile, are keeping everyone guessing as to their starting line-up.

That is largely due to the unavailability of centre Francois Steyn due to a knee injury that could rule him out for up to eight weeks, and the one-week ban of halfback Rory Kockott on a striking charge.

With Steyn out and Springboks centre Adrian Jacobs yet to be cleared to play after a shoulder injury despite training on Monday and Tuesday, the Sharks' possible centres pairing is the talk of the town.

Adding to the speculation was the shock return on Tuesday morning of Brad Barritt from English club Saracens, where he has played at No.12 and 13, and reports he may be parachuted into the side.

Barritt, who trained with the Sharks hours after his arrival, has a clause in his contract with Saracens that allows him to play for the Durban side should they need him and Saracens not require him.

The ins and outs of the Sharks have not forced the Waratahs coaching staff to alter their game plan. But Hickey admitted the constant change in speculation alone made preparation more difficult.

"In some ways you are better off knowing what you are getting, knowing what you are going to compete against," he said.

"That uncertainty of not knowing what their line-up will be makes it a little harder to get a read on how they might play. But with the depth and strength of rugby in South Africa, you know that the player who they get to replace is good anyhow."

Despite Barritt's reappearance in Durban, Hickey said the most crucial selection for the Sharks would be that of Springboks star Ruan Pienaar, who can play at halfback and five-eighth and is available.

Hickey is convinced Sharks coach John Plumtree will name Pienaar - who was on the bench last week - at No.10, with the probability that newcomer Charlie McLeod will fill Kockott's role at No.9.

"The significant selection there is Pienaar at five-eighth," he said. "They look like a different team with him at five-eighth. I have no doubt they will play him at five-eighth.

"They will bring up another halfback for Kockott. But it will be interesting to see what centre combination they do come up with."

Despite Barritt and Jacobs training with the Sharks on Tuesday, Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford was still hesitant to reveal if one or both of them would play as early as Saturday.

At a media conference in Durban on Tuesday, Bashford said of Barritt: "He's played a lot of rugby so there are no fitness issues with him. Although we haven't discussed selection, we will chat to him, see how he trains and make a decision."

Barritt said he was surprised but confident he would fit in to the side.


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